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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Crash Blossoms

If you like words, and who doesn't... I personally use them all the time, then you'll enjoy crash blossoms. This is a relatively new term for something we used to call 'double take' headlines. You know... like "Squad Helps Dog Bite Victim" or "Red Tape Holds up New Bridge."

Crash Blossoms (which got its name from the headline: "Violinist Linked to JAL Crash Blossoms") was the first topic covered by new columnist Ben Zimmer as he took over the On Language column in the New York Times Sunday Magazine. The column had been authored for 30 years by Pulitzer prize winner William Safire, who ran out of words recently (i.e... he died).

As a journalist at heart, I have long loved these misunderstood headlines typically found atop newspaper stories. Such headlines were usually written by a news desk editor on deadline, working feverishly to make his story title fit a specific column width and space available. And, every so often, they were purposely crafted as an 'inside joke' to amuse his colleagues at the news desk. Late night editors sometimes got a little 'punchy' in the heyday of newspapers.

Some favorites are classic:

"MacArthur Flies Back to Front"
"Eighth Army Push Bottles Up Germans"
"Doctor Testifies in Horse Suit"
"Vineland Couple to Take On Missionary Position"
"Judge to Rule On Nude Beach"
"Blind Woman Forced to Clean Up by Police After Her Guide Dog
  Accepts Settlement"
"Stiff Prices at Auction of Erotic Art"
"Gator Attacks Puzzle Expert"
"British Left Waffles on Falklands"
"Missouri Gas Chamber is Unsafe"
"Dentist Receives Plaque"
"Giant Waves Down Queen Mary's Funnel"
"Panda Mating Fails; Veterinarian Takes Over"
"Women's Movement Called More Broad-Based"
"Flaming Toilet Seat Causes Evacuation at High School"
"Urologist Censored by His Peers"
"4-H Girls Win Prizes for Fat Calves"
"Blind Bishop Appointed to See"
"Tuna Biting Off Washington Coast"

Well, you get the idea. These darned things are infectious though... like eating potato chips, it's hard to stop. OK, just one more... "Judge Blocks Discharge of Gay Seaman"  OK, one more... but this is absolutely the last one: "Two-Headed Baby Recalls Similar Birth in 1970"

The End.

"Blind Woman Gets Kidney from Dad She Hasn't Seen in Years"  Whoops! Couldn't help it.
"Deaf Mute Gets New Hearing"  Sorry

                                                                       (so it's a reprint from April, 2010... boo hoo)

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

What are the odds...

King Kong fills out perfect 'March Madness' bracket--wins $1 Billion
The odds of winning Warren Buffett's $1 Billion for a perfect NCAA March Madness bracket are 1 in 9.2 quintillion-plus.

Here's a simple way to visualize how much that is: List every possibility on its own sheet of paper. That many pages would weigh more than 500 million times the weight of the Empire State Building. So King Kong did have an unfair advantage!

My suggestion for the serious fans, win the lottery 3 or 4 times to get the feel of it... then click here for more confidence. (I promise, it's worth it!)

Sunday, March 16, 2014

I need 7 1/2 minutes of your time...

I really need 7 1/2 minutes. I'm not trying to sell anything or asking for money... but when it comes to being a hero or playing it forward or trust or love, this will be impactful and touching. It's a short Singapore produced film called Gift . It will touch your heart.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

$9 billion in cash... and other stuff.

Grocery chain Safeway was just purchased for $9 billion in cash by a capital investment firm. I heard the big cheese of supermarket buyers just opened his wallet and peeled off nine one-billion dollar bills. Safeway knew they were legit because the bills all had a hologram of Donald Trump imbedded in the paper.

I'm kind of nostalgic about all of this... I was fired from my first job at a Safeway store. Most people won't make change for a billion... not without a purchase they say... so last time I needed to break a one-billion dollar bill, I just bought a sausage biscuit at McDonald's and got change... $200 in paper and the rest in quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies.

New York City is beside itself in anticipation over the thought that musician James Murphy is going to make its extensive subway system a work of symphonic art.  He plans to revamp the underground sound of the MTA by changing the cacophony produced by the subway turnstiles and oncoming train alerts. "They make this unpleasant beep and are all slightly out of tune from one another," he says.

"I became kind of obsessed with this idea that instead of just unpleasant, with almost no change at all, it could be beautiful."

The idea came to him after he was blown-away by the Tokyo underground system's friendly voices and "incredibly gentle beeps." Then, in the Barcelona airport, the four-note sequence before an announcement reminded him of the opening notes of the group Chicago's song "Color My World."

So, after he has re-tuned the beeps and sounds, if allowed, all 468 stations on the 323-mile long MTA will play one hauntingly charming and catchy tune, "It's a Small World After All." A rider would never have to lament missing even one note. (The song is a joke, but the rest is true.)

With one sport season over-
lapping another, overlapping another, overlapping another, there is always a Most Valuable Person award every month or so. Here's my choice for the MVP at an upcoming St. Patrick's Day parade in every hometown.

From this human point-of-view, it doesn't take much to be most valuable to someone. Go for it!

Speaking of that and intending to end on an inspiring note or two, I saw something that made me sad a few days ago. I was waiting in line at a very fancy restaurant (McDonald's again) and noticed the young family in front of me... dad was ordering breakfast for his wife, four-year-old daughter (I'd guess) and infant in a car-seat. Order was placed on the counter as he reached into his pocket to pay... but (and I didn't put this together til after), he was short of cash. He told the order-taker that he had to go to the car for more money and directed his family to follow him. Then, as I stepped to the front of the line, I saw the cash register flash "Sale cancelled." I raced to the door just in time to see their car pulling away and felt really bad that, had I been more aware, I could have "played it forward."

I'm really sorry I blew this chance but there will be others... for me and for you. Play it forward doesn't have to be big to be impactful for someone who needs a little boost... and to that voice in your head that says "That's what it's all about."

Thursday, March 6, 2014

What did the toilet paper say to the toothbrush?

The toothbrush has been around since... ? (Hint: six years after Columbus sailed the ocean blue.)

And the toothbrush has felt sorry for itself all these years because, as our bathrooms have changed from outhouses to high tech wonders, it is still brusha, brusha, brusha, two or three times a day, pretty much the same old way... with auto vibration thrown in just to appease it.


Well, thanks to technology, it won't have to. There's now an App for that.

"The World's First Available Interactive Electric Toothbrush" now links to your smartphone, thanks to Proctor & Gamble. It not only brushes your teeth but gives mouth-care tips and news headlines. Russia has invaded Ukraine... you missed a spot... another winter storm is on the way... up and down stupid... and now a word from our sponsors... 

Oh sure, it does other things too, like record your brushing history and timing each brush... you know, the important stuff. As one industry observer noted, "It's like having a microwave you put in your mouth." (Yeah, he really said that.) Does this mean that if the coffee you are drinking is too cold, you set the toothbrush at 30 seconds, press "start" and hold tight to the sink. On the other hand, we could see some world records in gargling.

A competing manufacturer is betting on "sensors and analytics to improve your brushing with algorithms designed by five (yes 5) mathematicians to identify which quadrant of the mouth a user is brushing. We want to use data to reinvent the way people brush their teeth."

How have we lived so long without this?

Now move over, bidet... my guess is that lowly toilet paper will be augmented by the next App we see. We already have the cutest darn toilet paper ads on TV offering "a good wipe." You know the brand, the kind that all the bears in the woods use. Says some future industry mogul: "It's almost like having a Roto-Rooter in your back pocket." All of which begs the question: How many mathematicians will it take to improve "the wipe?"

*Art by my new friend, cartoonist and editor, Tim Peckham

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Sunny, windy and hot

Credit NASA/SDO with thanks
As winter wanes...  a good forecast is worth its weight in gold. Don't forget to use your sun tan lotion.

Sadly, this wasn't the forecast for our area... or our planet. A few days ago, NASA's Solar Dynamic Observatory noted an enormous burst of plasma--a solar flare. These things happen, you know.

As big goes, this bigger-than-most eruptions from the sun's surface was estimated as a million-plus miles... accompanied by a 4.5 million miles-per-hour wind so hold on to your hats.

Want to be impressed? Take a look at this.

You might suspect I'm a little over-the-top when it comes to the enormity of space and its every facet. A few night ago, I watched the International Space Station cross my section of sky. The ISS has now logged over 1.5 billion miles since 2000 when it was launched, and has been visited by more that 200 astronauts. The space station, including its large solar arrays, spans the area of a U.S. football field, including the end zones, and weighs a little shy of 100,000 pounds. The complex now has more livable room than a conventional six-bedroom house and has two bathrooms, a gymnasium and a 360-degree bay window.

It is only 220 miles from earth traveling at 17,000 miles-per-hour--peanuts by space standards--but it sure is awesome. Want to see it? This website will tell you where and when to look.

Oh, by the way, if anyone should ask, those who know say there are at least 8.8 billion planets that are similar in size and temperature to earth... and lots, lots, lots more that aren't.

I love this stuff!